Author: Joel Fuhrman, MD

Publisher: Little, Brown and Company (Hachette Book Group) – 380 pages

Book Review by:  Laxmi Chaandi

This popular book by Dr. Joel Fuhrman is a national bestseller, now No.54 on Amazon’s Top 100 list as of this writing on Feb 14, 2012. It was first published in 2003 and has gone through over 20 printings in English and several other languages. This latest version was released in June 2011.

To date, the author has written seven books on nutrition, including Disease-Proof Your Child. He is board-certified in family medicine and does research on what causes weight gain, as well as preventing or reversing disease through nutritional and natural methods.

Dr. Fuhrman has appeared on radio and television shows including on Good Morning America on ABC, Today on NBC, the Discovery Channel on PBS, the TV Food Network, the Dr. Oz Show and other shows on national and international TV networks including ABC, CBS, CNBS, CNN, FOX and NBC. His own PBS television show 3 Steps to Incredible Health began airing nationally in the U.S. in June 2011.

The popular TV personality Dr. Mehmet writes in the Forward to this book that unhealthy eating along with lack of exercise are the most serious lifestyle problems in the United States. He points out that in a recent United States survey of 9,500 people, 36 percent were found to be overweight and 23 percent were obese. Dr. Fuhrman states that it is even worse: a whopping 34 percent of all Americans are obese, defined by him as a third of your body content being made up of fat.

One of the chief causes of these problems is eating high-fat content meals mainly in fast food restaurants. He states that some 110 billion meals are consumed outside of home, and much of them in such places. If you divide this number of meals by the total current U.S. population of 313 million people, you come up with an average of 351 meals per person, which translates to the average person eating at least one meal out of the house, typically in a fast food eatery.

Obviously not all people go to fast food places, and some may have never stepped in there, so some people may be eating there more than once or even twice or more a day.

The book contains 10 chapters that are strongly worded to warn you of the dangers of unhealthful habits. But they also contain case studies and photos of people who lost substantial weight and now enjoy the wonderful benefits of eating right.

The first one, “Digging Our Graves with Forks and Knives,” he points out that not only is obesity the number one health problem in the United States but if eating habits and lifestyle changes are not achieved, by 2048 – 36 years from now – all adults will be either overweight or worse, obese.

He cites a National Institutes of Health estimate that obesity is associated with a two-fold increase in deaths and is costing society about $100 billion per year.

One stark reality he brings up is that even as dieters spend $40 billion a year on weight-reduction programs, 95 percent of them gain all their weight back and then add on even more pounds within just three years.

Dr. Fuhrman points out that overweight people are more likely than others to die from all causes including cancer and heart disease, and two-thirds of them have diabetes, high blood pressure or other health ailment. They also develop arthritis, gallstones, gastrointestinal, liver and lung diseases, and sleep disorders more than those with proper weight.

In chapter 2, “Overfed, Yet Malnourished” the author writes that while many fruits satisfy our cravings of our “sweet tooth” as well as provide many of the nutrients our bodies need, many Americans overeat products containing sugar such as candy bars and ice cream. On top of that, we consume ‘nutritional lightweights’ – processed carbohydrates like bread, pasta and cakes – deficient in fiber, phytonutrients, vitamins and minerals, that do more harm than good to our health.

He cites two studies – one on 65,000 women and the other on 43,000 men – which found that consumption of refined carbohydrates from white bread, white rice, and pasta had two and a half times the incidence of Type II diabetes, compared with those who ate high fiber foods such as whole wheat bread and brown rice.

Phytochemicals are produced by plants. These are termed variously as antioxidants, flavonoids, carotenoids and other types of compounds. Although scientists have identified thousands of them, the most common ones are ascorbic acid (vitamin c), beta carotene, folic acid and vitamin E.

Researchers at the American Cancer Society have found that such compounds aid in the treatment of many health conditions, including cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and high blood pressure. There is evidence that some of the compounds found in plant-based foods may help prevent the formation of potential carcinogens (substances that cause cancer), block the action of carcinogens on their target organs or tissue, or act on cells to suppress cancer development.

Many experts suggest that people can reduce their risk of cancer significantly by eating more fruits, vegetables, and other plant-based foods that contain these nutrients.

Dr. Fuhrman calls phytochemicals   nature’s “magic pills” in chapter 3. He presents a pie chart which shows that only about one eighth – 12.5 percent – of the American diet consists of these healthful foods: beans, fruits, nuts, seeds, vegetables and whole grains. But, almost two-thirds (62 percent) of what is consumed in America are refined and processed foods such as carbohydrates and extracted oils, which have undesirable effects on your health.

And over a quarter (25.5 percent) of the American diet consists of fiberless animal foods. He concludes that the American diet is “designed for disease” and he urges us to consume larger amounts of plant-based foods.

We will not go into the contents of each chapter due to space limitation and choice of important points to highlight, but the book’s other chapters present numerous findings from research that show you which types of food are beneficial to you and which are harmful, even deadly, over a period of time.

This is truly an eye-opening book and one of its excellent features is the provision of ample data, evidence and scientific basis for many of the assertions made and statements presented. This book can save your life or at the least, improve your health.